Retinal tears, also known as, retinal detachments are a common worry when changes are noticed in your vision. But how can you tell if you really have one? There are some signs that are more of a red flag than others. Let’s view retinal tears, their symptoms and severities, treatments, common causes, and how to prevent them.
Retinal tear symptoms
Typically with retinal detachments or tears, there is no pain and you may experience flashes, floaters, or dark curtains. Let’s review each.
The retina may produce a flash like a camera when it moves. These flashes usually occur when the vitreous (or gel like fluid) in your eye detaches from the retina. This may create a large floater in your vision. If the connection of the vitreous is tight, it can pull on the retina, which creates the flashing. This is more noticeable when you move your eyes around as this also moves around the fluid inside your eye. If you notice flashing, you need to be seen to prevent further damage to your eye.
If the connection of the fluid to the retina is really tight, it has the potential to tear the retina. If this happens, you may notice a large amount of floaters in your vision.
Finally, with retinal detachments, you will notice a large dark curtain in your vision. This can come from any direction. This is considered an emergency. It is important to receive treatment before too much of your vision is obstructed. The sooner you are treated, the better the outcome.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call us to be seen immediately.
What causes retinal tears?
As we discussed above, when the connection of the fluid to the retina is really tight, it has the potential to tear the retina.
Retinal detachments can occur in nearsighted individuals, as well as, from force or fast movement. Examples include the force of a shotgun fire, a car accident, or an injury due to a ball hitting someone while playing sports. Nearsighted individuals are more susceptible to detachments due to having longer/larger eyes. In larger eyes the retina can stretch more and lead to retinal detachment.
People will perceive things differently and may not notice that they have a retinal tear. It is best to have a dilated eye exam to determine the exact cause. If you do have a retinal tear or detachment, you will be treated by a retinal specialist.
Can retinal tears heal on their own?
No. Most often they need to be treated by a professional retinal specialist.
Types of Treatments
- Laser treatment – a laser is used to burn the area around the tear to create a scar to help seal the tear and reattach the retina.
- Scleral Buckle Repair – involves scleral buckle which is a small plastic, rubber or silicone band. The buckle is placed around and sewn to the outside of the eye. It then gently pushes inward to hold the layers of the eye together allowing it to heal. The band cannot be seen. The buckle stays on the eye permanently and healing can take months.
- Vitrectomy – is the removal of the vitreous humor gel that fills the eye to better access and repair the eye.
Can you prevent retinal tears?
Not entirely. But you can protect your eyes to prevent an injury that could cause a detachment. For example, wear safety glasses when being active; during indoor and outdoor sports, wood working, yardwork, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, etc.
Is retinal damage permanent?
Without treatment, retinal detachment can become permanent or become worse and lead to blindness. With proper treatment you have a better chance restoring your vision and returning to normal activities sooner.
Ready to schedule an eye exam? Call (218)720-3553.